In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (New International Version)
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward humanity! Today we celebrate the mystery of the incarnation – the unfathomable miracle of God becoming human – all for us and for our salvation.
The beginning of the Apostle John’s Gospel is an astounding passage of Scripture. These are verses to slowly and worshipfully read through because it is a theologically rich, lovingly beautiful, and missionally sensitive piece of Holy Scripture.
The high and holy God has chosen to come and reveal true divinity to us in the person of Jesus. We know God through Christ. We learn what God is like through Jesus. God graciously condescended to us, bent down to communicate in ways we can understand and discern, through the Lord Jesus.
The God which Christians worship and serve is an over-the-top gracious and generous God. This is a God who has gone to incredible lengths in restoring lost humanity. Since God has bridged the great chasm between heaven and earth, we have hope, joy, peace, and faith. With God in the neighborhood, divine love becomes our motivation to reach out in compassionate service. People matter to God – so much so, that the Father sent the Son to be with us, our Emmanuel.
Jesus is the light of the world.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, NIV)
Jesus told his followers they are the light of the world.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV)
A simple observation: Neither Jesus nor his followers become light. They are light. So, what does that mean?
To be light means we take a particular posture toward the world. It means we have a unique role in how we are with one another and in society.
Sometimes it’s important to say what something is not before we talk about what it is. To be light means we are not:
- The Judge. The incarnation of Jesus was not for the purpose of playing Sheriff in the Old West, riding into the town of this world and gunslinging the bad guys either out of town or into the cemetery. Just because the world shot the sheriff, does not mean they’re off the hook for not shooting the deputy. There is judgment coming. But neither you nor I are the judge. “Do not judge,” said Jesus, otherwise you will be judged. (Matthew 7:1-2)
- Cave-Dwellers. Rabbit-hole Christians. Dorm toads. Or any other metaphor for separating oneself from society and hiding out. Cave-dwellers want to hide out and start little fires that will only warm themselves. A rabbit-hole Christian scurries from hole to hole trying to avoid the world. Dorm toads never leave the friendly confines of their apartment swamp.
Rather than judging and hiding, people of the light are:
- Encouragers. They speak constructive words of edification. Encouragers know there is a bit of light in everyone, so they see through the darkness to the good which can be enlightened and called forth in others. People who encourage have a glow about them which is attractive and winsome.
- Aware. Being light causes one to see themselves in high definition. Both the image of God and the fallen nature of humanity is seen and held together. People of the light are aware of their identity. They are then able to act with humility, gentleness, and meekness. Since they know they are infinitely loved by God, this brings a great freedom to speak and act with confidence.
- Believers. Faith begins with receiving grace. It then works its way from an internal truth to an outward expression. People of the light follow in the footsteps of their Lord Jesus. They love, lead, and linger in society as spiritual beings who help illumine the path.
- Merciful. Since they were once in darkness themselves, people of the light set aside pre-meditated judgment and deal compassionately with those who are spiritually blind.
- Pure. The light has its way of exposing impurities. People of the light squarely face their own reality and purposely seek purity in all their dealings with society.
- Peacemakers. Being characterized by the light means we not only possess personal peace; we also make peace through creating and sustaining harmonious relations with others. The light enables us to be spiritual ombudsmen who carefully and effectively bring peace between warring factions.
Jesus is the light of the world. We are the light of the world. That means we do not hide but are present and involved in our families, neighborhoods, communities, local institutions, national affairs, and world problems. Being characterized as followers of Jesus causes a person and a faith community to be visible, to show the world who Jesus is, and what he is like.
The earliest followers of Jesus allowed their light to shine in the world through:
- Taking in unwanted children, orphans, and babies left exposed to infanticide.
- Ministry to the sick and dying during times of plague and disease, as well as visiting those in prison without families.
- Help and kindness to the poor, foreigners, immigrant strangers, and widows, especially when no one else would.
Where light is present, no one needs to remain in darkness. Even a small flickering flame can illumine enough to make a way. And when many small flames come together, there is a great light for all to see.
For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:5-6, NIV)
May the light of Christ, the living Word, dispel the darkness of our hearts so that we may walk as children of light and sing the praises of a merciful God throughout the world. Amen.
Almighty God, for unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. You have given your one and only Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born on this day of the virgin Mary.
Help us, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may be a light for the nations, being daily renewed by your Holy Spirit. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, we pray, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.